WEEKLY WORKOUT: Erin & Sonya focus on a solitary sport where a partner is required

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Running is a solitary sport and a lot of the people who do it, like it that way.  But if you’re interested in being part of a team — this “Workout of the Week” may be just the thing for you.

From a distance, Don Owens and Dennis Haney look like a couple of friends going for a run.  They are — but with a bond that’s different than most.  A bungee cord keeps them connected as they cover mile after mile.  Dennis is one of several people who runs with Don.  “They’ve all evolved into really good friends,” Don says, “I spend a lot of time with them and I do have to trust them.”   That’s because they function as Don’s eyes.

“Well, I never ran any races when I had sight — which I did for thirty years,” he explains, “my only experience has been as a blind runner.”  Don lost his sight to a degenerative eye disease.  “A friend at work talked me into running a marathon — I thought she was crazy because I couldn’t even run a mile!”

He’s covered countless miles since then, including four marathons — thanks to his friends.  “It’s really paying attention to all the things that as runners with sight, we take for granted,” explains Dennis.  Now he and Don help Mike Boone with Adaptive Sports Iowa’s guide running clinics.

We immediately learn that being a guide isn’t as easy as it might seem.  While I’m blindfolded Sonya tried to give me verbal cues about what obstacles are in our path.  When we reach a set of stairs, we both feel a sense of panic and she asks, “How do I do this?!?!”

It’s obvious Dennis and Mike are a lot more confident, but they tell us even the experts trip up occasionally.  “Certainly learning through experience when I failed,” Dennis says with a bit of a grin, “I may have run Don into an orange cone once.”  Don starts laughing remembering the incident.  “I did a nice shoulder roll and came back up and we kept going.  I didn’t even know it was a cone!  I said what was that?!?!  I’m positive Dennis didn’t do it on purpose.   Well, pretty sure.”

And that’s how these runners approach life.  If there’s an obstacle they find to get around it, or over it — or through it.  “A gentleman came up to me and said his son was blind and that he realized his boy could probably do a lot more than he thought,” says Don, “comments like that make it worthwhile.”